Accela App Wins City of Atlanta’s Govathon

At the recent Govathon civic hacking event in Atlanta, GA, an application built on Accela’s Construct API took the grand prize.

In this post, we talk to the project lead Pedro Queiros about the Govathon project he worked on and his experience using the Accela Construct API.

For more great coverage of the Govathon event, check out these posts.

What attracted you to the Govathon event? What made you want to participate?

I like these types of events. I can immerse myself for 1 or 2 days and dedicate all my energy to creating a product/service, build it, test it… while working with people that I’ve never met. If I can help the city where I live while doing it, it’s icing on the cake.

Can you describe your project? What does it do? What problem is it meant to solve?

The challenge was to reduce the calls made to the City of Atlanta’s customer service center asking for the status of a building permit. Initially the idea was to do a mobile app, but getting the applicants to install an app just for checking the status would not be easy and they might not have smartphones or data plans to do so. But most of them have phones that they use to call customer service. So why not build an SMS service they could use to text their building permit ID and get back the current building permit status? It was that simple.

What are your thoughts on using the Accela Construct API? How did it help your project?

The project was very straightforward: an SMS interface to a database of building permits. Initially I was given an excel file with all building permits since 2003, which I loaded into a local database and built the app around. I had no clue how to move forward this way with the app to really get it live. I would have to store the data somewhere. How many people would I have to pitch that this was a good idea before I had access to the database? Well, the answer was: none.

All the data is publicly accessible through Accela Construct API, and using the rapid application development (RAD) platform from OutSystems, I was able to connect my SMS app to the live data of building permits of Atlanta. How important was this for the project? It made the difference between having another cool prototype that would be hard to implement in the future and have a working solution, ready to use. How often does than happen in a Govathon where the teams have less than 24h to build something?

Would you ever participate in another government / civic hacking event?

This was not my first Govathon and I attended a few Hack Nights in Atlanta (meetup group to continue working on Govathon projects). I’m not going to give up now, especially with this motivation boost.

Congratulations to Pedro and all of the other Govathon participants!

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